The players, the team, and the ways we can play nice together.
People make Assemble possible! Learning is a social experience that happens between and among teachers, students, and the things they're learning and doing together. Learning is as much about relationships as it is about acquiring knowledge and practicing skills. Those things matter, but we think that how we learn them, with one another, matters just as much. Students, teachers, experts, families, communities—they're all players on the Assemble team. So when it comes to assembling a team of your own, be sure to make space for these teammates:
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Teachers who work directly with learners in your space and through your programs (often in collaboration with coordinators and guest experts).
Coordinators who plan, design, and deliver programs. They're often teachers, too, but with some extra responsibilities.
Guest experts who add some extra magic to enrich your programs, events, and experiences (they also help boost your signal through promotion to their own followers).
Volunteers who help keep things running smoothly, especially when you've got a big event, a crowded program, or a major project going on.
Heads Up: This section focuses on the adults (big people) who run Assemble, not the children (smaller people) who learn at Assemble. Of course, those smaller people are people too, so you might be surprised that they're not included here. You'll find tips for engaging them throughout the playbook (especially in Start Assembling). But here, we're sharing what we've learned about assembling teams of adults and what it takes to assemble exquisite learning experiences for kids.
Teachers are the people who work directly with learners in our space and through our programs. Many of Assemble's teachers are teaching artists or makers, which reflects our art-centric origins. Your teachers may be artists, but they could just as easily be makers, hackers, historians, biologists, engineers, docents, or tutors.
Educators at Assemble aren't school teachers, they're out-of-school teachers. That distinction is important to us and to our learners.
There’s something different and powerful about the ways out-of-school educators connect with young people. The relationship between Assemble teachers and Assemble learners is deeper and simpler because the power dynamic that's inherent in a classroom setting just isn't as prominent in the non-formal settings of an afterschool program or day camp. Our teachers act as facilitators of learning (as opposed to gatekeepers of knowledge), which helps students open up, explore, and play as they learn. This relationship is akin to that of an older cousin—someone you can joke around with, but also look up to. Providing trusted adults for kids to look up to, open up with, and model after is important for your learning environment. It is also important to provide a diverse array of folks as teachers, opening up the possibilities for your students to identify as they want to be versus what society deems them.
In our experience, relationships like these build trust, act with care, and make it easier for everyone to feel safe and comfortable taking risks, trying new things, and being willing to fail in order to learn. This isn’t to say there aren’t tears and frustrations at Assemble! That’s unavoidable and part of learning. You got to make space for the tough times, too. But Assemble teachers are able to work through those things with kids because of their relationships with them. Everyone has bad days, so it's important to keep the big picture in mind and not pass judgement in the moment.
Building relationships with students helps teachers find ways to reinforce confidence and motivate kids as they work through the tough parts of learning. A big skill many kids learn at Assemble is how to ask for help. We also try to empower kids to answer each other's questions by using statements like “I don’t know, what do you think?" and "Let’s look it up!” Asking for help is hard! Most adults are still learning how to do it. Strong relationships and trust make it possible.
Please Note: Teaching in school is no joke and takes a lot of work. We respect the heck out of certified school teachers. The work they do with students in school, day-in and day-out, not to mention the years of study and training they go through to become school teachers, makes them our heroes. They also work in systems that demand a lot from them without reciprocation. Assemble, and out-of-school time spaces everywhere, are here to support the hard work they do as part of the larger ecosystem of learning. Many Assemble teachers have gone on to become K-12 classroom teachers, too!
Must love learning (and being surrounded by kids)